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What is vitrectomy surgery?

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Vitrectomy is a surgery to remove the vitreous gel, also called the vitreous humor, from inside the eyeball. It is typically done either to allow surgery on the retina, which lies behind the vitreous gel, or to remove vitreous gel which is clouded with blood, typically as a result of retinal bleeding.

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When the retina bleeds into the interior of the eyeball, the blood often stays there indefinitely, clouding vision. Vitrectomy is a method by which that blood can be removed and vision restored. In many cases, the bleeding is caused by retinal problems that less invasive techniques such as laser surgery have failed to address, and removal of vitreous gel is often done to allow direct access to the retina in order to correct such problems. In practice, vitrectomy may be done for either reason, and it's often done for both.

The surgery itself involves inserting specialized instruments into the eyeball and removing some or all of the vitreous gel by suction. Retinal surgery often follows. Finally, the proper volume and intraocular pressure are restored by injecting either silicone oil or a gas into the eyeball. The eye gradually replaces gas with fluid; silicone oil persists but does a better job in the short term of holding the retina in place, which is a greater concern in some cases.

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